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Thursday, September 29, 2005

History of the Watch in Japan

Casio Frogman

The first wrist watches were invented and worn in 17th century Europe.

Western timepieces and clocks were first brought from Europe to Japan by Portuguese and Spanish Jesuits and later by Dutch traders and were of huge fascination.

Francisco de Xavier is often said to have brought the first mechanical clock to Japan in 1551, which he presented to a feudal lord (daimyo) in what is now Yamaguchi Prefecture.

The Japanese had developed their own clock in the Edo Period (1603-1867) called the "Pillow Clock" or "Wadokei" (Japanese clock 和時計). The Wadokei was driven by the downward movements of weights, which turned a winding drum, which then rotated the hands of the clock via gears. Japanese timepieces had be adjusted each day to fit the existing Japanese time system.

In Edo Period Japan time corresponded to the position of the sun and a day was divided into 12 time periods: 6 for the daytime and six for nighttime. The system obviously varied with the seasons and the six daytime time periods were not the same length as the six night periods - except at the equinoxes when they are equal. The 12 periods were named after animals.

It was not until the Meiji Period in the nineteenth century with the introduction of high-tech Western engineering techniques and precision machinery however that the first clocks and fob watches were mass-produced by a forerunner of the present-day watch manufacturer Seiko.

The first wrist watch was produced in Japan as late as 1913.
From then on things moved quickly however and Seiko produced the first quartz watch for mass-production in 1969. The company also pioneered the world's first LCD quartz watch in 1973 followed by the world's first multi-function digital watch two years later. In 1988 Seiko introduced the first automatic power generating quartz watch and a watch with a computer chip inside. Other new developments in watch-making have followed at regular intervals.

Other Japanese watch manufacturers began to challenge Seiko's early market dominance - brands such as Casio and Citizen (which began in the 1930s) began to sell their watches to a global market. Seiko responded by launching a number of "new" brands distinct from the Seiko name such as Alba, Lorus and Pulsar.

Japan now produces many of the most innovative and fashionable watches in the world.

Choose from a selection of Japanese watches


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. One of the best Japanese watch companies was forgotten here: Orient. Very informative article though!


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